The tradition for Super Bowl champions is hosting the opening game of the following season.

That will hold true for the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in what's expected to be a high-profile matchup in a Thursday night game Sept. 5.

The league typically announces the opponent during the annual NFL owners meetings. Those meetings are March 17 to March 20 in Phoenix, Ariz.

The top candidates for the Ravens, based on rivalries, quality of opponent and fan interest, are the following teams:

The New England Patriots: Coached by Bill Belichick and quarterbacked by Tom Brady, the Patriots have faced the Ravens in the AFC championship each of the past two years, winning last season and losing this season as Baltimore advanced to the Super Bowl and defeated the San Francisco 49ers. Patriots vs. Ravens is a ratings bonanza for the league, so this is the most obvious selection and likely to happen.

The Pittsburgh Steelers: This is the hardest-hitting rivalry in the NFL, filled with the kind of physical blocking and tackling these two East Coast cities have come to expect, and the league loves matching up meaningful divisional games early and late in the season.

The Houston Texans: This would be a rematch of the Ravens' biggest loss last season. The Texans have some very good players like J.J. Watt, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub, to name a few.

The Green Bay Packers: The NFL loves quarterback matchups, and Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers are two of the best signal callers in the game. The Packers have a national following and a lot of excellent talent like Clay Matthews.

awilson@baltsun.com

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